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Archive for February 2010

The database market will see lots of activity during the 2010-2011 timeframe as nearly 60% of organizations move to upgrade or expand existing and legacy networks.
That statistic comes from new ITIC survey data, which polled 450 organizations worldwide. Not surprisingly the survey shows that longtime market leaders Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Sybase will continue to dominate the DBMS market and solidify their positions.
Databases are among the most mature and crucial applications in the entire network infrastructure. Database information is the lifeblood of the business. Databases directly influence and impact every aspect of the organization’s daily operations including: relationships with customers, business partners, suppliers and the organization’s own internal end-users. All of these users must have the ability to locate and access data quickly, efficiently and securely. The corporate database must deliver optimal performance, reliability, security, business intelligence and ease of use. It must also incorporate flexible, advanced management capabilities to enable database administrators (DBAs) to construct and oversee a database management system (DBMS) that best suits the organization from both a technology and business perspective.
What will distinguish the DBMS market this year is that the always intense and vociferous vendor rivalries will heat up even more over the next 12 months.
There are several pragmatic reasons for this. Most notable is the fact that many organizations deferred all but the most pressing network upgrade projects during the severe downturn over the past two-and-a-half years. Many businesses are now in a position where they must upgrade their legacy database infrastructure because it’s obsolete and is adversely impacting or will shortly impact the business. Anytime a company decides on a major upgrade there’s always a chance, that they may switch providers. The DBMS vendors know this and will do their level best to lure customers to their platform, or at the very least get a foot in the door.
Another factor that looms large in the 2010 DBMS market dynamics is Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems. That acquisition finally got the green light from the European Commission last month. Speculation abounds as to the fate of the MySQL, which is a popular and highly regarded Open Source DBMS. For the record, Oracle executives stated publicly within the last two weeks that it will continue to support and develop MySQL and even provide integration with other Oracle offerings. But users are uneasy because MySQL does compete to some extent with some Oracle products. Expect rivals, particularly IBM and Microsoft, to aggressively capitalize on user confusion and fear to entice users to their respective platforms.
The DBMS Vendor Landscape
As nearly everyone knows, the four major DBMS vendors: Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Sybase account for 90% of the installed base, unit shipments and revenue.
Oracle’s 11g is the undisputed market leader. It offers a full slate of online transactional processing (OLTP) as well as specialized database applications. As such it is being assailed from all sides and with relish by rivals who take every opportunity to criticize its’ products and strategy. Oracle, headed by Larry Ellison one of the most visible and outspoken high technology CEOs, happily reciprocates with its own vitriol.
IBM’s DB2 9.5 for Linux, Windows and UNIX remains firmly entrenched in high end enterprises owing to its rock solid reliability, performance, management, scalability and overall data and application integration capabilities. Users are also loyal to the DB2 platform because of IBM’s strong after-market technical service and support offerings. IBM also secures its position within very large enterprises by giving good deals and discounts on licensing renewals and training and support.
Microsoft’s SQL Server 2008 has shown tremendous improvement in scalability, security, ease of use, programmability and application development functionality and is gaining ground particularly among SMB and SME organizations. Microsoft hopes that the increased functionality of SQL Server 2008 will enable it to erode Oracle’s very entrenched presence among enterprises. A big plus for Microsoft is its legion of committed resellers and consultants who do an excellent job of promoting SQL Server 2008 among SMBs and SMEs.
Cost, Interoperability and Performance Top User DBMS Requirements
DBMS upgrades and new installations will be fought, won and/or lost according to three main factors: they are interoperability, cost and performance/features. The latest ITIC survey data found that nearly 90% rated interoperability with existing or planned infrastructure as the most important factor weighed when choosing a server vendor; 80% chose cost as a main DBMS influencer and 78% cited performance as their main reason for choosing a specific DBMS vendor platform.
But any DBMS vendor that hopes to dislodge or supplant a rival in an existing account will have to work hard to do so. The ITIC survey data also shows that organizations – especially large enterprises – do not readily or often forsake their legacy platforms. According to the survey data, 76% of survey respondents indicated they have not migrated or switched any of their main line of business applications from one database platform to another within the past three years.
This statistic makes a lot of sense. Precisely because DBMS platforms are among the most mature server-based applications in the entire enterprise, it’s much more work to rip out one platform and start fresh. A wholesale switch from one platform to another requires significant capital expenditure monies. Additionally, the business must also invest a lot of time and energy in converting to a new platform, testing new applications, rewriting scripts and re-training DBAs and getting them certified on the new environment. For CIOs, CTOs and IT departments this prospect has roughly the same appeal as having root canal without Novocain.
Nonetheless, one-in-five survey respondents – 20% — did migrate database platforms over the past three years. The most popular reasons for switching DBMS platforms, according to the survey respondents is a move to a custom developed in-house application a customized application developed by a partner. Just over half – 53% — of responding organizations that changed DBMS platforms came from midsized enterprises with 500 to 3,000 end users – a fact that favored Microsoft SQL Server 2008 deployments. Among the 20% of ITIC survey respondents that switched vendors, fully 50% of organizations swapped out Oracle in favor of SQL Server, while 17% migrated from Sybase to SQL Server. Overall, among the 20% of respondents that switched database platforms over the past three years, two-thirds or 67% opted to migrate to SQL Server. In this regard, Microsoft SQL Server converts outpaced rival Oracle by a 2-to-1 margin. Approximately 34% of the 20% of businesses that changed database platforms migrated away from DB2 or SQL Server in favor of Oracle.
IBM DB2 users were among the most satisfied respondents; an overwhelming 96% stayed put.
Analysis: Customer Issues and Chief Challenges
Respondents cite challenges with their database strategies, but are also sanguine about the journey. For instance, one respondent said that the main challenges were “keeping up with changes to the SQL platform and getting our database administrators and appropriate IT managers trained and re-certified on new versions of the technology and then figuring out how it all works with new virtualization and cloud computing technologies. Cost and complexity are also big factors to consider in any upgrade. Networks are getting more complex but our budgets and training are not keeping pace.”
Respondents were particularly focused on the cost issue: “cost, both new licensing and annual maintenance”, “increasing cost of licensing”, “cost is the overriding factor” were just some of the responses.
As for future plans, a 56% majority of respondents report that switching database platforms in the coming months is very unlikely; while 17% said it is not an option to switch and 15% said that switching is a possibility, depending on the circumstances.
Getting organizations to change DBMS platforms is difficult but not impossible. If a rival vendor can offer concomitant performance and functionality, coupled with tangibly better pricing and licensing renewal options which lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and speed Return on Investment (ROI), organizations may be induced to make the switch. The biggest DBMS battle is in the SMB, SME sectors and green field accounts that are adding new databases.
DBMS vendors are anxious to keep the current customers and gain new ones. End users should make the vendors work to keep them as satisfied customers. Dissatisfied customers should voice their concerns and even satisfied customers should let their vendors know what they can do to make them even happier.

Regardless of how well the newest class of Tablet computers fare in terms of sales and unit shipments, the evolution of these portable devices will be divided into two classifications: Before the Apple iPad and After the Apple iPad.
Apple’s iPad — admittedly a late entrant into this market — has already changed the game in the fledgling, niche Tablet market, even before the company has shipped its first device.

The frenzied efforts of industry watchers — from Apple afficiandos, rival vendors to analysts and media — to ferret out the most minute detail of the Apple tablet in advance of its release, served to served to rejuvenate what had been a stalled market segment.
The Tablet computer occupies a still nebulous market arena that puts it somewhere in between smaller NetBooks and smartphones and larger sized portable devices. No one can answer those questions with any surety, but one thing is certain: Apple’s entrance into this crowded field has sparked renewed interest into this device category.
The long rumored iPad was shrouded in mystery for months before the official January 27 announcement. Apple stubbornly refused to confirm its existence, much less any details. Nonetheless, the anticipation was so great, that it sent several vendors scrambling to preview rival Tablet offerings at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in advance of the iPad debut.
No one was shocked when Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the company’s latest “creation.” However, Apple did manage to stun the industry by hitting the $500 price barrier for the entry level device. This affordable tag makes the feature laden iPad Tablet competitive with the wildly successful, low-cost NetBooks which were all the rage in 2009. Additionally, the Apple iPads list tags will almost certainly follow the normal discounted street pricing patterns and decline by 10% to 30% over the next six months. Apple’s aggressive pricing maneuver has also succeeded in causing consternation among competitors who must now re-evaluate their own price structures in order to follow Apple’s lead.
Still even at $499, the Apple iPad is not the lowest priced Tablet device. That distinction currently belongs to Freescale Semiconductors which introduced a touch screen Tablet that retails for $199. The Freescale tablet lacks many of the iPad’s high end features, such as advanced graphics, which accounts for the price differential. It runs on either Android or Linux and also incorporates a battery that lasts for eight to 10 hours. Consumers can also opt to add a keyboard to hold the Freescale tablet like a monitor. Available in a selection of colors, the tablet includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and optional support for 3G. Users can add an external keyboard and mount the tablet on the keyboard as its display. Freescale Semiconductors is marketing the device able to OEMs who want to quickly get to market with a Tablet.
Tablet Market: Narrow Niche or Mainstream Appeal?
The real question now is: will the recent flurry of new Tablet releases translate into mainstream success or will Tablets remain a niche device in search of a market? Many industry observers have openly scoffed at the notion that these devices will ever achieve widespread adoption. In recent months the rising tide of speculation about the Apple iPad also engendered debate as to why anyone would need or want yet another portable device in a field that is already crowded with smart phones, a wide variety of portable notebooks and the very popular and inexpensive Netbooks.
These are all valid questions. Tablet devices have been available for the past five years. To say that they have met with only moderate success is an understatement. This is partially due to the economic downturn and also due in large measure to the fact that the marketing around these devices never identified a clear and compelling use for them outside a few narrow niches.
There was also confusion about what constituted a Tablet computer. There is no standard, one-size-fits-all device that addresses all market segments. In the 2006-2007 timeframe some vendors opted to see larger Tablets that more closely resembled traditional notebooks or laptops. The higher end devices from vendors like Acer, HP and Toshiba often incorporated advanced features like handwriting recognition, inking capabilities in the Windows presentation subsystem and fingerprint security ID. Conversely, several suppliers marketed hybrid mini-Tablets/eBook readers with small (six inches or less) form factors.
And over the last two years, the Tablet segment was eclipsed by the burgeoning popularity of NetBooks, which have an average price range of $150 to approximately $400.
Nonetheless, nearly every major hardware vendor boasts at least one Tablet in their product portfolio. Acer, Asustek Computer, Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Lenovo, Micro-Star International (MSI), Motion Computing, Toshiba, Viewsonic and Wacom are all betting that consumers and eventually businesses will embrace the Tablet form factor.
In recent months Asustek Computer, HP, Dell and MSI all debuted new tablet offerings to beat Apple to the punch. MSI launched its 10-inch Tablet at CES and HP is readying its offering, an Inventec-manufactured device set to debut in the spring. Asustek released its tablet Eee PC T91 and will launch 10-inch model along with Windows 7.
Bottom line: There is a wide range of form factors and features from which to choose. Models range from very small lightweight, like the Apple iPad that weigh 1.5lbs. , and use a stylus, to larger 5-6 lb. notebook-type form factors, that swivel and have full or hidden mobile keyboards.
The Price is Right
One thing about Tablets that should help spur acceptance and adoption,and may even trump NetBooks, is cost. Tablet computer prices have dropped significantly from 2007 when pricing ranged from $599 to $2,700, with the media tag averaging $1,600. Thanks to the rise of NetBooks and Apple’s uncharacteristic move to be a price/performance leader, the average selling price (ASPs) for Tablets is now between $400 and $800. Special promotions abound and leasing and financing solutions are widely available from all the vendors. HP, for example, markets its HP/Compaq Mini 110, 210 and 311 Series of mobile laptops and mini NetBooks which range in price from $269 to $399 with 10 to just under 12 inch screens and is outfitted with Intel’s Atom processor 1.60 GHz. Additionally, HP also sells the TouchSmart tm2t series of high-end customizable tablets, whose list pricing begins at $899 and ranges to about $1,300. The TouchSmart tm2t tablets, have a 12.1 inch display screen. They allow users to swivel the screen, fold it over, write and draw on it using a digital pen or alternatively employ touch screen fingertip navigation. They also have a full keyboard. The HP tablets are available with 64-bit Windows 7; either 2GB or 3GB of memory; a 250GB or 320GB hard drive and a choice of Intel 1.3GHz Pentium processor or an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.60GHz processor. The HP TouchSmart tm2t series pricing is closer to traditional notebooks, though it incorporates the tablet features and functions. HP also regularly offers special sales and promotions on the TouchSmart tm2t tablets which can lower the price by 20% or more. Dell and Toshiba both have multiple Tablet models. Toshiba’s Portege M750 is a high end model that can convert from a notebook to a tablet and has digital pen and touch screen capabilities with pricing starting at $1,279.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has made no secret of his disdain for NetBooks and he now seems determined to at least bring the iPad entry level list prices within a couple of hundred dollars (US) of the low cost NetBooksin the hopes of luring users away. . Credit Suisse financial analyst, Bill Shope published a Research Note earlier this week based on his meetings with Apple executives. According to Shope, Apple is positioning the iPad to be the device of choice for Web browsing and all forms of mobile media and the company is willing to cut the price, if that’s what it takes to ensure success. Other vendors will be forced to follow suit.
Meanwhile, with features ranging from mobility, portability and widespread applications like gaming, videos, photos, E-book reader, Email, Web browsing, maps, weather forecasts as well as the ability to write notes and draw pictures, the appeal of Tablets is taking on a much sharper focus. Seen in this context Tablet devices would appeal to a wide range of consumers as well as commercial and business users in fields like:
• Legal
• Healthcare
• Manufacturing (factory floor)
• Construction
• Academic
• Consultants
• Press
• Defense
• Aerospace

With Tablet devices now sporting features, performance, applications and pricing to rival high end notebooks and low-cost E-book readers and NetBooks, it’s highly likely that their popularity and adoption will soar in the coming months. The competition will be intense and that spells good news for consumers and corporations that are looking for competitively priced devices for their mobile and remote workers.